We recently started using electric fence netting with our chicken tractors and we are very happy with the results. In the past we let our chickens out of their chicken tractors whenever we were home, but they have bad habits, like flying into the garden and wrecking everything or pooing on the veranda. Lately, they have been confined to their chicken tractors, and that just means that we have to move them more regularly, but we missed seeing them running around.
What is electric fence netting?
Electric fence netting is a roll of plastic netting with metallic wires woven into the horizontal strands of the net. The netting has pronged stakes incorporated at regular intervals, so you can push them into the ground and set up a fenced area. It comes in different lengths, and you can combine multiple lengths to make any size yard. You can use this type of netting to contain smaller animals - its perfect for chickens, goats, sheep and pigs - that can duck under a single or double electric fence wire that you would set up for cows or horses.
How do you use electric fence netting?
Electric fence netting serves two purposes - it keeps your animals contained, and it keeps predators out. That means they are out of the garden and off the veranda. We also have predators including foxes, goanas and hawks (and two curious kelpie dogs), so I need to keep them safe behind the electric fence. Ideally they have some room to range around, but stay reasonably close to the safety of the chicken tractor so that they can hide from aerial predators if necessary. This is also a good way to separate two roosters who don't play nicely.
You will also need a suitable energiser and earthing system for your netting. You will need a relatively large energiser as all the horizontal strands are energised, and that really adds up to a long fence overall. I have some tips for setting up electric fencing here.
Wait, what is a chicken tractor?
Chicken tractors are the perfect compromise between wild free-ranging chickens and chickens that are locked up in a small areas all the time. A chicken tractor is a chicken house on wheels, that you move over pasture (or lawn). It can be temporary or permanent.
(If you want to find out more about chicken tractors, I wrote an eBook on chicken tractors and backyard chickens)
The electric fence netting pairs with a chicken tractor, as you can move the tractor around, and set up netting to let the chickens free range over a defined area. When they have eaten all the grass in that area, you simply lock the chickens in the chicken tractor, pack up the fence, move the tractor and set up the fence again. Our chickens love getting out during the day, but we still close the door on the tractor when they've roosted for the night, just to ensure that they are completely safe from predators.
What to look for in electric fence netting
Like any electric fence product, you need to make sure that it is good quality as it will be plastic out in the sun and weather, and you want it to last for years. I stick to well-known brands, rather than cheaply made alternative. We have the Thunderbird Thundernetting, which was recommended by a friend who has tried multiple brands of netting.
The main failure point is the prongs on the end of the stakes. If you have hard ground like us, you're going to need metal prongs. Some brands make the netting with plastic prongs (who lives somewhere where that would even work?? I can only imagine not needing a large mallet to hammer in our netting!).
Our netting sags between the stakes, and I have talked to some people who set up a perfect square and put star pickets in the corners to tie the stakes to (using baling twine), to keep the fence tight. However, another friend feels that the sagging prevents chickens from flying up to land on the top of the fence (which by they way, would not give them a shock, as they are not earthed, like birds on power lines). We did not achieve a square, and we have sags. So far we haven't had any escapes, although I have noticed the chickens fly up onto the roof of their chicken tractor, and they could then fly over if the chicken tractor was close to the netting, so best to place the chicken tractor in the centre of the netted area.
Its also important to mow the grass where the net will go. The strand of the net on the ground is not electrified (otherwise it would short all the time), but any grass touching the other strands will reduce the electric shock.
We only got the one set of netting to start with so we could try it, now we will get another one so we can run two chicken tractors free ranging.
Have you tried electric fence netting? Any tips to share? Any questions?
Some other posts about using electric fences
|How to use electric fences|
|How to join electic fence polywire|
|How to use electric fences on the homestead|
|How to use a solar electric fence energiser|